Deciding Against a Normal Life

Twenty-three hundred times.

A low estimate of the number of times I have driven the exact same route to work as of today.

It’s a beautiful, scenic drive.

At 7:30 AM, the fifteen minute drive from Kingston to Lenoir City on I-40 East allows you to see the sleepy awakening of the east Tennessee valley that most residents take for granted as they zip by me in the left lane, sipping coffee while anxiously riding the tail of the car in front of them.

Momentary openings in the stretches of trees along the interstate expose hills blanketed in morning fog, rolling as far back as you can see. Those in the left lane don’t seem to notice.

The end of the exit ramp is an entry to a much slower world, seemingly from a different time, for the five minute remainder of my routine every morning.

I enjoy driving past the long-since abandoned barn, trees bursting through the roof growing higher and higher by the year.

I love to peer at the small, white, one-room church at the top of a hill with an old cemetery behind it. I have a sincere appreciation for the old man who I have seen repair wind damage to the building throughout the years and clear fallen trees from the yard.

I crane my neck while crossing the small bridge over the marsh to get a better view of the even smaller, one lane bridge beside it, overgrown and less visible each year.

When passing the weeded lot where once sat the deteriorating house I drove by for so many years, I feel a pang of sadness for someone, somewhere, with memories of a home that no longer exists.

I look to the right each morning at the freight carrier terminal that now takes place of the dirt race track that my parents and I would frequently attend every summer. Fleeting visions of cheering on my dad in demolition derbies, running wildly to pick up quarters as they were tossed on the track as fast as I could with other children during the breaks, and wiping dirt out of my eyes after every other left turn flash through my mind before taking my own left turn to my final destination for the rest of my workday.

Nine uninspiring hours later I leave.

I wind through the same sights on the same curvy road before merging onto the interstate, being passed by cars that zip by me in the left lane, whose inhabitants talk on cell phones while anxiously riding the tail of the car in front of them.

Twenty-three hundred times.

Eleven thousand, seven hundred.

A low estimate of the number of times I will have driven the exact same route to work before retiring at the age of 65 in a normal life.

And eleven thousand, seven hundred times driving back home.

A normal life is tens of thousands of missed adventures.

Tens of thousands of what ifs and if onlys.

Of moments wishing I were somewhere else, doing what I want with whom I want.

A normal life is not for me.

Is it for you?

A journal post about the opportunities missed during the last 10 years of living a normal life working a 9-5 desk job.

After 9 years of the same daily routine, I have to figure a way out.


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  1. Beautifully written as always. Your drive to and from work sound just beautiful and it’s so lovely to know you soak up every last detail and are living in the present when so many drive that route on autopilot. Love from across the pond 😊😘

  2. Carly says:

    You write so beautifully! I don’t know what is next for me when we pay off our home but I know it will be a blessing and an adventure.

    1. Thank you so much! Same here, we have several ideas but when it comes down to it, I just want to make life my own and not spend the majority of my time doing what I’m told. Best wishes to you!

  3. erica says:

    sounds wonderful the scenery you drive by everyday. I can imagine it. I love Tennessee and would love to visit someday soon. I used to live in West Virginia and I miss it all the time. The natural surroundings is what made my living there good. I love the natural beauty. anyway….I would write something like this but I would include keep the Deciding against a normal life …but a chosen one. I too wish for more time to enjoy my surroundings and folks I know and love. I do not like societal labels and do not conform to what others are doing or saying. I am finding that I need to get to the business that God has for me and that is to serve others in whatever capacity. So I agree with you that folks just rush around and do not pay attention to life…their life…really pay attention to it until they are old and grey. what a pity. Keep noticing the little things and cherish them as you have. Thank you for sharing, it was a great “escape” to imagine the scenery you wrote about. Have the most beautiful day.

  4. Beautiful. This one made me think. I always look forward to reading your blog posts. Lots of love 💖

  5. steveark says:

    I am older and made the same eight minute drive over 9000 times there and 9000 times back. But I had some, no many, of my life’s best adventures at that job. Was the hero that saved the day many times, literally saved a friend’s life once and met so many wonderfully bright and talented people. Slightly early retired I rarely make that drive and life is even better.

  6. This is an elegantly written post that made me think introspectively of my day to day routine. I love how you use the the contrast of the left land and the right lane as a metaphor for life. Those who speed through life always wishing for what is coming next and those that enjoy the moment and find beauty in the present. Thank you, Ellie.

  7. Second Comma says:

    Very beautifully written! I could absolutely picture your commute to work and relate to your desire for a different life. Loved this!

  8. Love this! As more years go by, the more I crave a sense of freedom that most people in our society lack. They feel trapped by debt, stressful jobs and hustle and bustle of an over packed schedule. I definitely want to hVe the freedom to live the life that makes me feel most fulfilled and at peace.

    1. Ellie Mondelli says:

      Ah yes, everything you just said.

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